Early feminist criticism, in particular, employed this strategy. In her book, Sexual Politics (Garden City, NY: Doubleday 1970) -- one of the first feminist literary critical texts -- Kate Millett performed a critical analysis of the novels of Norman Mailer and D.H. Lawrence among others. Judith Fetterly's more recent book, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction (1978) follows in this line, arguing that American literature written by men "insists on its universality at the same time that it defines that universality in specifically male terms." The common theme of these works (a melody repeated by one or more voices?) is that the male protagonist must break away from the confining, oppressive civilization associated with women (think of Twain's Huckleberry Finn, the legend of Rip Van Winkle, Hemingway's stories of sport and adventure in the wilderness). The woman who reads such literature, Fetterly argues, must learn to resist the temptation to identify with the hero against women.

The problem with this approach, if relied upon exclusively, is that it does not address women's omission from the canon, an exclusion that leads students to believe either that women did not write many works or that women's works were not "as good as" those of men.

The Literary Canon


Gender Matters The Literary Canon: an Overview

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